Authorities search for 40 abducted workers in Peru

AP News
Posted: Apr 11, 2012 8:02 PM
Authorities search for 40 abducted workers in Peru

Peruvian security forces pressed an air and land search Wednesday for 40 construction workers more than two days after they were kidnapped by Shining Path rebels.

The abducted workers, employees of Skanska of Sweden and the Peruvian company Ransa, were seized before dawn on Monday in the hamlet of Kepashiato, near the country's main natural gas field in the Amazon jungle.

Searchers so far had found no sign of the workers or their captors, said Mayor Fedia Castro of Convencion, the municipality that encompasses Kepashiato. Police and military officials did not comment on the actions being taken by security forces to locate the workers.

Officials have said the rebels are demanding $10 million in ransom, and the government has declared a two-month state of emergency in the district of Echarate, where the workers were abducted.

Skanska spokesman Edvard Lind said from Sweden that 29 of the workers were employees of the construction company. He said the company was cooperating with Peruvian authorities as well as its client, a natural gas consortium, "to try to assist in finding a solution to the situation."

He declined to comment on whether the company received any direct communication from the abductors.

The workers, who began building a new gas treatment plant last year, were rounded up at about 3 a.m. Monday from their hotels, said Kepashiato's mayor, Rosalio Sanchez. He said the rebels lingered for three hours, buying groceries and summoning about 20 residents to an assembly where they condemned the government and the natural gas industry.

Castro, the municipality mayor, said residents reported that dozens of rebels were involved in seizing the workers, and drove them away in sport utility vehicles.

Such mass abductions are rare in Peru, and Monday's kidnapping showed a new brazenness from the Shining Path.

The cocaine-trade funded rebel band is a small remnant of the Maoist group that terrorized Peru in the 1980s and 1990s. It is believed to number about 300 to 500 fighters and is centered in the Ene and Apurimac Valley region where more than half of Peru's coca crop is grown. The town where the kidnapping occurred is located in an adjacent region.